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Family Aboard Flight 965 Was Heading Home For Christmas

December 22, 1995

SOMERVILLE, N.J. (AP) _ When they learned that the plane carrying Gonzalo Dussan and his wife and children had crashed in Colombia, relatives at the family’s home here turned off the Christmas lights.

When word came that the Dussans were among a handful of passengers who survived, the tree was lit again. Today, the lights were off and relatives and friends sat by the radio, television and telephone waiting for definitive word of Gonzalo’s wife and son, whose fates could not be confirmed.

``We’re confused. We don’t know what’s going on. You don’t know what to feel,″ said Anna Gutierrez, 19, whose stepfather is Gonzalo Dussan’s brother. ``We don’t know how many of them are going to make it. We’re just waiting for the phone calls.″

Anna and her mother, Miriam Mera, stayed behind in the house they shared with the Dussans as Gonzalo, 36, his wife Nancy, 35, son Gonzalo Jr., 13, and daughter Michelle, 6, headed to Cali, Colombia, to join other family members for Christmas.

When word came that their American Airlines flight had crashed, relatives hoped the Dussans had missed the flight, since their connecting plane from Newark had been delayed.

When they received confirmation the Dussans were on the flight, they were brokenhearted. But then came news that they had been rescued alive.

Today, the Red Cross confirmed Gonzalo Sr. and Michelle were alive, but said it could not account for Gonzalo Jr. or Nancy, who had been listed in some reports as survivors. Gathered at the house here, relatives and friends stared at their names in a newspaper list of the survivors, trying to maintain hope.

Miriam Mera said one of Dussan’s brothers in Cali called to say he was told the 13-year-old was in a hospital in Buga. But, she said, ``The family hasn’t seen him. They haven’t touched him.″

Other relatives of Mera’s husband were on the same flight but were not among the known survivors. Luz, Michael and Stephanie Claros, of Hillsborough, were going to their homeland for the holidays.

``I am depressed,″ Mera said.

Hospitalized in Cali, Dussan told a reporter Thursday that he realized something terrible had happened when he felt the freezing cold in the darkness and the pain in his shoulder.

He looked around. ``When I woke up ... and saw everything scattered around me, I realized we were in an accident.″ Anna, who spoke with him by telephone, said he recalled calling out to his daughter, and she answered.

Dussan is a technician at Ortho Diagnostic Systems Inc. in Raritan, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, said J&J spokesman Bob Kniffen.

The other two known survivors were identified as Mercedes Ramirez, 21, of Blue Springs, Mo., a student at Northwest Missouri State University; and Mauricio Reyes, a business student at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

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